European governments are frightened by Trump’s behaviour but even more frightened of upsetting relations with the US, argues Lindsey German
What an incredible statement from European leaders Johnson, Macron and Merkel about the escalating situation of war in the middle East – one fuelled every few hours by ever more belligerent tweets from Donald Trump. It manages to repeatedly condemn Iran for its role in the region, at the same time calls for restraint and de-escalation and, beyond belief, fails to even mention the man who is more than anyone else responsible for the growing tension.
It is Trump, after all, who tore up the JCPOA or nuclear deal, which was internationally brokered and agreed as a step towards peace and nuclear disarmament. It was trump who imposed draconian sanctions on Iran which are causing real hardship for the people there. It is Trump who ordered the killing of high ranking Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, and who now threatens to hit cultural sites in Iran. And it is Trump who has the temerity to threaten Iraq with sanctions as it votes to get his troops to leave their country.
The European governments are terrified of Trump’s behaviour about which none of them has been consulted (although Trump’s close ally Netanyahu was). But they are even more terrified of offending the US. So they perpetuate the lie that Iran is the real problem here. And they have to absolve themselves from criticism by repeatedly denouncing the governments of Iran or Iraq.
We have been here before – many times. We were told the major threats to the world were Afghanistan’s Taliban government, then Saddam Hussein in Iraq, then Gadhafi in Libya, then Assad. They – and some of their cheerleaders on the left – claimed that anyone who opposed their disastrous interventions must be in support of the various dictators, new Hitlers and terrorists that were being opposed.
But that has never been the basis of anti-war campaigning. Instead it has rested on the belief that US imperialism and its allies pose the major threat to world peace – not just in the Middle East but in Latin America and east Asia as well. That means opposing it and our own government which follows the US so closely. It also means insisting that the situation in the Middle East is a product of centuries of empire and that the solutions to war, repression and inequality there do not lie with those self-same imperialist powers but with the people of the region itself.
War makes their ability to emancipate themselves much harder. Which is why our role is to oppose the warmongering of Trump (and Johnson) and warn that his actions are milestones on the road to a war which threatens to turn the whole Middle East into a permanent conflict zone.
The killing of Soleimani was illegal under international law and is effectively an act of terror by the US. The threats to strike Iranian cultural sites are also contrary to international law and both would constitute war crimes. The claim that Soleimani posed an imminent threat to the US is a convenient lie for which no evidence has been produced. Indeed, the Iraqi prime minister has said that he was on a diplomatic mission to Baghdad, which was mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The designation of Soleimani as a terrorist is part of US wishful thinking, hoping to put him in the same category as previous assassination such as those of bin Laden or al Baghdadi. In fact, he was one of the highest military figures in Iran and was leader of the revolutionary guards, which are part of the Iranian military. Designating him as a terrorist is effectively to designate the whole Iranian state as one.
The anger across Iran and Iraq over this is palpable. Trump’s attitude is typical of a playground bully who hits someone and then is astonished that they protest. There will be retaliation to these acts and consequences can spiral out of control. The Iraqi parliament has voted to remove US troops, and this is only the start.
The Iraqis have a great deal to be angry about. More than 1 million died during the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The country is still broken and wracked with war. No one has been held accountable for that crime – instead, Bush, Blair and Campbell are feted and invited to give their views on the crisis they have created.
If the European leaders follow Trump in this dangerous and deadly course, they will meet mass opposition on the streets, communities and workplaces. Ordinary people here, like their counterparts in the Middle East, have no interest in these wars – in fact they are the ones who suffer.
There is a public meeting tonight in London - https://www.facebook.com/events/621178605301027/. Please check the Stop the War page - https://www.facebook.com/stopthewarcoalition/ - for details of upcoming rallies and meetings throughout the UK.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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